Future Hope column, June 6, 2010
By Ted Glick
“Those Who Take the Meat From the Table
Those for whom the taxes are destined
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men and women.”
Here’s some information you probably didn’t read about in your newspaper or see on the evening news: according to a Pew Research Center poll released on May 4th, “29% [of U.S. Americans] say they have a positive reaction to the word ‘socialism’. . . Among those younger than 30, identical percentages react positively to ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ (43% each).” 37% of the total population has a “negative reaction” to “capitalism.”
Whoa!!! Half of those under thirty and almost a third of all of us in the USA think “socialism” is preferable to “capitalism!” And this isn’t news? You’d think our mass media was owned by corporations or something.
What does this amazing set of facts mean for the organized U.S. Left?
One thing it must NOT mean is that we look to book-based socialist, communist, Marxist and other ideologically-defined organizations doing the same kind of things they have been doing for decades. Given that none of them have come close to tapping into and making visible this massive discontent with corporate-dominated capitalism, we need to look for other ways to help this silent big minority and the much bigger “progressive” majority find its collective voice.
One thing that this political reality should mean is that we are more confident, more willing to do on-the-ground outreach to our neighbors and co-workers to talk with them about the big political, economic and social issues, or local issues, of the day. We’ll findâ€”some of us are findingâ€”more receptivity when we do this than we might think we would, particularly if we talk to people with honesty and respect.
And it absolutely has to mean that we Step It Up as far as our coming together to forge a national, united, progressive political force. Being “progressive,” by the way, is seen as a positive thing by 68% of those polled, behind “family values,” 89%, “civil rights,” 87%, and “civil liberties,” 76%.
Fortunately, some people and groups have been doing just this, organizing toward the critically important, second United States Social Forum (USSF), happening June 22-26 in Detroit, Michigan.
The first USSF was held in Atlanta, Georgia in the summer of 2007. 12,000 or so people came together for several days of workshops, strategizing, networking, dancing and hanging out with a beautiful, multi-cultural, young and old, positive gathering of sister and brother activists from around the United States.
This month’s USSF will be similar. As explained on the USSF website, “The USSF will provide space to build relationships, learn from each other’s experiences, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, and bring renewed insight and inspiration. It will help develop leadership and consciousness, vision, and strategy needed to realize another world.”
Steph Guilloud of Project South, one of the main organizers of the 2007 and 2010 USSF’s, describes them as “a big tent for real change. People from all walks of life will join under the banner of building a more vibrant civil society from the ground up, and creating a world that will be livable for our children and grandchildren.”
There will be 1,000 self-organized workshops on a wide range of subjects, as well as 50 “People’s Movement Assemblies,” longer sessions for more in-depth discussion and planning. A final Saturday afternoon plenary will provide a space for the results of those “assemblies” to be put forward to the conference as a whole and to identify follow-up plans and possibilities going forward.
As important as this second USSF is, it is just as important that many of us who are going to it look for every opportunity there to advance the perspective that we need an on-going, nationally-organized, independent progressive network with a USSF-type political perspective and organizing process. We need to talk seriously about how we can unite our many organizing efforts into a unified framework that is all about power to the people and defense of our threatened ecosystem.
The USSF is without question the only organized political force in the USA with the credentials, the experience, the resources and the leadership to advance such a process in a way that can yield the most results, most quickly. And things are urgent for our peoples and our world.
Ultimately, power to the people is what all of our progressive efforts have to be about. This means that we need to be about activism and organizing, and it also means that we have to relate to the electoral system.
Without question, the undemocratic, two-parties-only, corporate-dominated U.S. electoral system is a primary reason why those tens of millions of socialist-friendly people either don’t vote, because they don’t see a viable progressive alternative, or they swallow their disgust and vote for a lesser-evil Democrat. Think about how different this country could be if it had a genuinely democratic, multi-party electoral system. Think about progressives or socialists consistently getting vote totals that reflect what masses of people in the U.S. actually think about corporate-dominated capitalism. And think about how much stronger, more visible and more massive all of our progressive social movements would be.
It’s not impossible. It’s not a pipe dream. It can happen. Si, se puede, y pronto.
(For information on the U.S. Social Forum, go to http://www.ussf2010.org.)
Ted Glick has been an activist and organizer since 1968. His main work is on the climate crisis. He is also a leader of the Independent Progressive Politics Network and the Green Party in northern New Jersey. More information can be found at http://www.tedglick.com.